Thomas Hengelbrock has been principal conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra since the start of the 2011/12 season. The orchestra, which was founded in 1945 as a beacon of the country’s spiritual and cultural rebirth in the wake of the Second World War, can already look back on a long and distinguished tradition. Its first post-war principal conductor was Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, who was followed by Günter Wand, Christoph Eschenbach and, until 2011, Christoph von Dohnányi. Since April 2016 the former NDR Symphony Orchestra has been known as the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, a change of name that reflects its new artistic home. As such, it expresses the close links between the orchestra and its new venue as an international ambassador for Hamburg and North Germany.
On 11 January 2017 Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra have officially opened Hamburg’s newest concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie. The concert marks the beginning of a new era in the life of the orchestra, which has moved into the Elbphilharmonie as its resident orchestra and finally gained a permanent musical home after seventy years without a base.
With their programmes Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra will leave their mark on the new concert hall’s musical profile in no uncertain ways. The Elbphilharmonie offers the orchestra new opportunities in terms of its acoustics and space, and these opportunities will be of decisive significance for the orchestra’s subsequent development. The hall will also allow large-scale works from the 20th and 21st centuries to be performed under optimal conditions: in this area of the repertory the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra has long been an important source of new ideas.
The highly successful working relationship between Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra is documented in four acclaimed CDs featuring works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvorák and Schubert as well as a world-premiere recording of the Hamburg version of Mahler’s First Symphony. The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra has its own series of concerts in Hamburg, Lübeck and Kiel and plays a leading role at the major festivals in North Germany. Numerous tours have taken the orchestra and its conductor to venues all over Europe and as far afield as Asia.
“Under Thomas Hengelbrock’s direction the orchestra cast a collective spell on the audience. It remains a miracle how this orchestra, which – God knows – was by no means lacking in talent – has blossomed in the course of the last three years and acquired an unprecedented degree of freedom in terms of its ensemble playing. Without in any way belittling their desire and capacity for precision in every area of their technique, the players have discovered nothing less than the orchestra’s soul. And the manner in which they share this discovery with their audiences is a source of unalloyed joy.” Hamburger Abendblatt, 20 September 2014